New Years Resolutions
I found some good news to share with you this week that came from a website devoted to good news. I must say, I was thrilled to find the site because doing a regular search for positive news on mainstream media left me high and dry. Jen Kremer wrote 365 love letters to her peers. Like so many of us who don’t believe in the success rate of New Year’s resolutions, Jen tried something different that proved effective beyond belief.
“This was an experiment that absolutely altered the course of my life and the way I go through life,” she continued, “and it cost me nothing.”
The really great news about what Ms. Kremer accomplished is that she positively affected the lives of 365 individuals; it’s safe to say she absolutely made the day of 365 individuals who received a letter. But I’m not going to spoil it for you. Please click on the link above and rejoice in how the easiest and smallest of efforts can change the lives of many, including the person who made the effort.
I learned something very valuable from two writer friends, Jill and Ann, both of whom live in North Carolina. Instead of New Year’s resolutions, Jill and Ann set a New Year intention and that intention is in the form of a single word. Jill selected MINIMIZE for 2019 and Ann selected ENLARGE.
The word-intention I have selected for 2019 is ACCEPTANCE.
You may be saying to yourself, “Oh, oh, sounds like Irene is giving up, lacking in hope, settling for less. Quite the contrary is true, and I’ll tell you why.
I chose the word ACCEPTANCE because applying that word in my life allows me to be more understanding and acknowledging of those with whom I may hold differing opinions. (Accepting does not equate to agreeing, it simply means I accept a person’s right to hold ideas and opinions that are not identical to mine.) ACCEPTANCE also provides me with greater ease of life as I accept reality rather than fight what can’t be changed. I read recently that arguing with reality can be harmful to one’s health; I’m not going to waste a minute on such fruitless efforts.
The concept of ACCEPTANCE started to seep into my consciousness when early in 2018, I watched the TED video, A love letter to realism in a time of grief. In less than twenty minutes of your time, you will witness what Mark Pollock & Simone George learned about reality and about the difference between being an optimist and being a realist. Here’s a teaser explanation that will perhaps explain why I came to choose my 2019 word-intention.
Optimists rely on hope alone and end up disappointed. Realists accept the brutal facts and keep hope alive. Acceptance knows that grief is a raging river and you have to get in it because when you do, it carries you to the next place; it eventually takes you to the open land where it will turn out okay in the end.
I guess if you don’t get into the river, you’ll get stuck and never have the opportunity to find out what lies just beyond the bend. I have stepped into the river, and although I might step out from time to time during this new year, I feel confident I will get back in because of the desire not to miss out on what I cannot see. You see, because I’m not perfect, I’ve set ACCEPTANCE as an intention, rather than a resolution.
With resolutions, it’s all or nothing, baby; the pressure is on to change that something-or-other you discovered and have resolved to change. Sometimes resolutions get abandoned within the first 30-days, others don’t get much farther into the new year because many of us decide to just give up and take up that resolution the following year, or the one after that.
Intentions, however, have a more compassionate energy because they are not tied to outcomes. When I slip up I hope to view that shortcoming with less criticism and simply start over because the next moment presents a brand new opportunity. If I were to break my resolution, however, I think I would look at that setback as a failure because of messing up the “fix” I had decided to make in my life. With an intended action, however, I am on a path to create, rather than fix. Creating seems to allow a bit more leeway, don’t you think?
I leave you with the words of Socrates to explain my decision to intend, rather than resolve:
The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
To make changes, a strategy has to be effective. Intention does that for me.
Okay y’all, we’re two weeks into the new year. As I mentioned in my first Monday of the year post, some of you might have resolved to exercise more and eat less. Whether or not you’ve stuck with that resolution, I’m sure you’ll find some humor in today’s post.
- Today I bought a cupcake without sprinkles. Don’t tell me diets aren’t hard.
- I have a condition that prevents me from dieting; it’s called being hungry.
- Desperation is shaving before you step on the scale in the morning.
- David said, “Don’t forget, you are what you eat” to which Susan responded, “Well then I need to eat a skinny person.”
- I thought I was losing weight but it turned out my sweatpants had come untied.
- I tried to avoid things that make me fat: scales, mirrors, photographs …
- Gloria joined an online weight loss forum and was greeted with this first message, “Welcome to the Weight Loss Forum. To lose one pound, double-click your mouse six million times.
- A great way to lose weight is to eat naked and stand in front of a mirror.
- I’m not hungry but I am bored. Oops.
- You are not fat, you have fat. You have fingernails, but you’re not a fingernail.
- If you had to choose between losing weight or eating chocolate, would you like dark, white, or milk chocolate?
- And for those of us who are accustomed to things happening quickly in this fast-paced world, there’s this, “Two days into my diet, and I’m still not skinny. This is bullshit.”
If I can’t do anything useful, at least I would like to do as little harm as possible. Wherever You Go, There You Are, by John Kabat-Zihn
Do no harm is a practice found in various aspects of society – including the Hippocratic Oath – and it was the underlying principle of Mahatma Gandhi’s revolution and his personal meditation practice. But what does it mean? Is it really as simple as doing no harm? You tell me.
Do no harm: Don’t do anything while driving that will piss off other drivers.
Do no harm: Don’t speak ill of others behind their back.
Do no harm: Don’t use social media to bully or anger an individual or a group of people.
Do no harm: Don’t ignore the server or courtesy clerk who’s working as hard as he/she can for you. Engage them in conversation; make their day by respecting what they do.
Do no harm: Don’t be unkind to anyone; think of how it felt when someone was unkind to you.
Do no harm: Don’t litter or do anything that harms the environment, regardless of how small.
Do no harm: Don’t put off a kindness such as sending a card to someone for no reason at all – or for every reason you can think of. Your card and message may be just what that person needs that day.
Do no harm: Don’t ignore the impulse to turn around to the person behind you while in line to say, “I’m not in a hurry, why don’t you go before me.” You may not be in a rush and he or she may be; think how your thoughtfulness will impact the remainder of their day.
Do no harm: Don’t keep compliments to yourself. For example, if your spouse or friend looks nice, tell him or her. It doesn’t do the person any good if you keep it to yourself. Your lack of attention may cause harm.
Do no harm: Don’t expect someone else to make a difference; you make a difference in whatever way you can, even if doing so is an inconvenience. Your inconvenience may be just what the world needs at that very moment in time.
Do no harm: What I have provided above barely scratches the surface of how we can do no harm. Please add your input in the comments section below to provide all of us with examples of how we might improve our personal corner of the world.
My wish for you: health, joy, and peace in the New Year.
Resolutions, they can be worth celebrating, but more often than not, they shame us and fill us with guilt.
Dr. Bernie S. Siegel, 365 Prescriptions for the Soul, had the following to say about these annual promises to ourselves that we oftentimes make without thinking them through:
It is not a bad thing to make a New Year’s resolution, but you can also continuously set yourself up to fail. Be realistic and forgiving. The best resolution is to accept your limitations and start from there. Resolve not to give up on yourself, and be sure to love yourself, even when you don’t like your behavior.
It is far easier to live with the old regrets and problems than to change. So resolve to practice doing what you have resolved, rather than achieving sainthood tomorrow.
As you write down your resolutions, remember these things:
Be kind; do not set yourself up for failure by creating multiple resolutions that involve too much self-denial.
Keep your goals manageable and realistic. The best resolutions leave one day of the week to enjoy being human and not living by any rules or expectations you have created.
Soulution of the Day
Resolve slowly, so you don’t get dizzy and fall down on the job.
You’ll never be faulted for doing your best.
Regardless of the outcome, always fall back on doing something for the common good.
I’m currently reading The Road to Character, a book by columnist and political pundit, David Brooks. I recently watched an interview of his with Oprah Winfrey and was so impressed with the subject matter, I purchased the book he was promoting.
Mr. Brooks talks and writes about the difference between Adam I and Adam II, the latter being the person who has lived a eulogy life, not the resume life of Adam I. You’ll need to read the book to understand the full contextual meaning, but what follows is just one of many elements that resounded with me. I provide this excerpt verbatim:
The poor will often be ungrateful, and you will lose heart if you rely on immediate emotional rewards for your work. But if you do it for God, you will never grow discouraged.
A person with a deep vocation is not dependent on constant positive reinforcement. The job doesn’t have to pay off every month, or every year.
The person thus called is performing a task because it is intrinsically good, not for what it produces.
You see, we’re not responsible for the outcome. Most of the time, we’ll never witness how our good deeds helped another person. If our motivation was only to observe first-hand the benefits such deeds might produce, we’d stop doing good in short order. We must exercise faith and hope that our actions are not wasted.
Your ability to discern your vocation depends on the condition of your eyes and ears, whether they are sensitive enough to understand the assignment your context is giving you. As the Jewish Mishnah puts it, “It’s not your obligation to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from beginning it.”
All that we do with a clear conscience is good. We must not refrain from standing up and stepping forward. The good we do may be the beginning of a widespread process of well-being for others, or it may be the finishing touches on that which was started some time before you came into the picture.
It’s never too late to do good. Why resolutionize your intentions until next year? Start now.